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Medium moving away from "ad-driven publishing model", laying off 1/3 of its staff

 We believe people who write and share ideas should be rewarded on their ability to enlighten and inform, not simply their ability to attract a few seconds of attention.

Evan Williams has been part of internet publishing for almost 20 years - he's a cofounder of Pyra Labs, best known for the Blogger blogging platform (eventually acquired by Google), co-founder of Twitter, and currently the founder and CEO of the Medium publishing platform.

When he talks about what "works" people listen. And this is what he posted today about advertising.

His goal is quite ambitious: "To build a platform that defined a new model for media on the internet."

And an ad-driven model was not working towards that goal.

Upon further reflection, it’s clear that the broken system is ad-driven media on the internet. It simply doesn’t serve people. In fact, it’s not designed to. The vast majority of articles, videos, and other “content” we all consume on a daily basis is paid for — directly or indirectly — by corporations who are funding it in order to advance their goals. And it is measured, amplified, and rewarded based on its ability to do that. Period. As a result, we get…well, what we get. And it’s getting worse.

So they are shifting gears. But leaving that model means closing offices and scaling down Medium's staff.

And ultimately the problem is that there isn't any obviously better revenue model to replace ads.

So, we are shifting our resources and attention to defining a new model for writers and creators to be rewarded, based on the value they’re creating for people. And toward building a transformational product for curious humans who want to get smarter about the world every day.

It is too soon to say exactly what this will look like.

And i think that's why people turn to advertising: not because people love ads, but because there isn't any obvious alternative.

It will be interesting to see what they come up with.

Read Ev Williams announcement:

https://blog.medium.com/renewing-mediums-focus-98f374a960be#.cj5w9am7y
We’ve decided to make some major changes at Medium.
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Michael A Koontz's profile photoPaolo Amoroso's profile photoShore Sitter's profile photoPeggy K's profile photo
29 comments
Peggy K
 
There is, not surprisingly, some skepticism in the comments on the post. 
Michael
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I'm very interested to see what they come up with as well for Google+ has been ahead of this all along. I'm glad Google never placed ads in G+.
Peggy K
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+Michael Brown​ Google+ has the advantage of a corporate parent with loads of money - which mostly comes from ad revenue. Without that, I'm sure we'd be seeing ads here too (but it's excellent we don't).
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+Peggy K Yea, thankfully that is the case which is why I've always said Google+ has the advantage over other social networks 
 
+Peggy K Google+ collects interests, relationships, links statistics, behavorial data about what you do with pics and linked pages. This explains that there is no ads. It enhances the ads elsewhere.
 
Medium is correct in their analysis that ad-funded revenue ended up working against creative people creating quality content. But I have to say that even tho we do not have ads or any kind of monetization here on g+, g+ is in itself not helping the situation either, as Lunix and Peggy pointed out, g+ is part of google's ad universe for all intents and purposes, the only thing not existing here is a way for the content creators to ever get properly compensated for the revenue they all help google create.

But as medium has concluded, placing ads in the publishing platform is also not working, it never did and it never will. So we content creators are as usually the ones getting the shaft from the entire publishing world.

Hopefully medium and others can find a better way forward, allowing all content creators to get properly reimbursed for the things they enrich the world with and hopefully, whatever they and others, like google, settle on, will reward quality over mindless click and impression hunts.

Michael
 
+Michael A Koontz So far G+ creators reward are insight on different ways to create better. Which is nice. 
 
Absolutely, I was simply talking in broad and general brush strokes about the way all creative people enrich the entire world, society at large and countless of companies out there without getting properly reimbursed for it. Which is neither new for the digital age or much different today than it was before.
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+Michael A Koontz I wonder if Google is thinking of other ways of incentives. I think a good comparison is the YouTube Creators program. 
 
It would be great to see a create version of that, google hooking up each create member getting their own corporate backer or two or ten, with zero restraints on what and how they create. But I wont hold my breath for that happening, but it should happen :)
Peggy K
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+Michael A Koontz+Michael Brown​ the primary compensation for YouTube Partners is through displaying ads. YouTube Red subscriptions add to that, as do sponsorships, and fan payments, but it's still mostly ad revenue.

If Medium can figure out a different model that works, then they will be on the cutting edge.
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+Peggy K​ Well Yea as far as revenue goes but Google does a pretty good job doing other things to compensate creatives for their hardwork on YouTube. Nevertheless, ad revenue is the biggest piece of the pie.

Just for conversation, what do you think could be an alternate to ad generation. I'm actually really curious?
 
For creatives the only sustainable thing is what I mentioned in my last comment. Paywalls does not work, not even on a large corporate scale. There just isnt enough people willing to pay for content anymore.

So if we remove the ads, creatives being directly paid by corporate backers for continuing to create the things and message they create, and the companies getting the good will of being mentioned as co producers, that´s the only sustainable way for creative people to get properly paid, and for corporations to actually get something worthwhile out of it.

youtube style ads, as Medium realized, just doesnt work unless you create low quality spam content like pewdiepie. And if you do that, what is the benefit for the poor company paying the for ads. Nothing much actually since hardly anyone click on ads online or in youtube, or even pay attention to them.
Peggy K
 
+Michael Brown​ I don't know. It's a difficult problem, which is why I'm really interested in what Medium comes up with

Direct sponsorships can be great, but those are usually only available to channels and blogs and creators who are already popular. And even if they don't want you to run an ads for them, they are getting something for their money - product placement, personal appearances, etc.

Fan Funding is also great, but really only works if you already have a deep fan base. And still only a fraction of fans will ever be willing to pay directly.

I like the idea of a subscription model, like YouTube Red, where Partners get av piece of the pie based on views. But the problem is getting viewers to sign up for the subscription.

There are other sorts of advertising, in addition to display ads that might be less intrusive. Medium is/was using "Promoted Stories" and "Sponsored Stories" (https://help.medium.com/hc/en-us/articles/224601547-Ads-on-Medium). And AdSense has "Matched Content" (https://support.google.com/adsense/answer/6111336) which can include ads.

But at the end of the day those are still ads.

And I do think that a model where when small-timers can earn something from their creativity is a good thing - even a few hundred dollars can mean new camera equipment or the ability to rent professional studio time.

But I can't think of a solution beyond ads.
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+Michael A Koontz I think yours is a great idea. It goes in line with Google+'s idea of "Helping people get way more into their passion". However, that'll take a whole lot of effort on Google's part. 
 
mm, not so sure it would take a whole lot of effort on Google´s part to be honest. They have the global corporate network already through all their other divisions. The G+ team just have to coordinate interested corporate partners that would like to be "co producers" with the various create people. The network is there, the platform is there, the creatives are all there, even payment and all legalities is already there inside of Googles ( alphabets ) existing ecosystem.

It would just be a matter of the G+ team reaching out and working across the various 'google' teams. Peace of cake, I´d make it happen in less than a week :).
Michael
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+Michael A Koontz​ Perhaps this is something that could be presented to them, because I think it's a solid idea. 
Peggy K
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+Michael A Koontz​ what do the corporations get out of that? They wouldn't do that out if the goodness of they're heart. Usually corporate sponsorship comes with ads, or product placement or other promotional requirements.

There are three issues I have with corporate sponsorship.

1. Potential lack of creative freedom. Corporate sponsors might not be willing to sponsor investigative journalism into their industry for example. If you review video games, for example, would your corporate sponsor allow a critical review of one of their games? Or a critique of sexism in the video game industry?

The current ad systems do have content requirements - no adult , no excessive violence, being family safe. But beyond that there is no editorial control.

2. Sponsors want to be associated with popular creators. So there is probably no compensation for the little guys. Or creators who aren't pretty enough, or mainstream enough, etc.

3. Country specificity. If your audience is in China or India, would a US country want to sponsor it.

So while corporate sponsorship is an option, it has limitations and possibly a lot of strings attached. As one possibility out of several it's fine, but it shouldn't be the only one.


 
No need for it to be the only one Peggy, I am not telling google or pewdiepie to quit on Yutube ads :). I am talking about g+ and the general state of ads and paywalls.

As for what corporations get out of it, they would get the same kind of exposure as from traditional ads but in a much better goodwill way because ads just does not create the kind of goodwill and real product exposure as they once did.

As for your other points they are all true of course, but that is already how the world works so nothing would change in that regards.

For instance Exxon and Coca cola would never ever want to work with me no matter if I get a billion people to suck up every single piece I create, nor would I be interested in working with those two corporations unless they alter their entire product line and corporate way and let me decide how they go about doing things :).
 
One real life example could be tesla getting to co sponsor my "contemporary life in the anthropocene" collection for an entire 12 - 24 month period, or so, for x amount of upfront payment. Creating the kind of world improving good will exposure and collaboration that both me and Tesla are interested in.
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Another example would be for film critics. Which I think would be simple to do because it's done already on the web. Film production companies hire critics to go watch films to review them. 
 
Yes exactly, that is another natural fit, sadly you and I dont get to call the shots on google Michael because this is a solid and very natural fit for G+ :). It totally should happen :).
Peggy K
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So that brings up an interesting question: does Google+ allow sponsored content? Off the top of my head I can't think of a policy prohibiting this. 
 
I have never seen or heard anything that would prevent a company from co sponsoring a collection. But I do know that right now g+ does not allow sponsored prizes for instance.

So there might be a policy somewhere that would prevent it from happening, but that would be easy to change of course :).
 
I hope Medium or others figure out that elusive Holy Grail of for monetizing creativity.

To match advertising it should scale across the whole spectrums of influence (from small guys to celebrities) and platforms (from small blogs to large publishing platforms, or whatever the web evolves into). In other words, it takes a moonshot.

By the way, have you had a look at what Mike is doing here on Google+ with Amazon associate links?

plus.google.com - Why I use a Ring Video Doorbell even though I travel all the time My favorite…
Peggy K
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+Paolo Amoroso​ I've tried Amazon Associate links on my blog to mixed results. People have to both click and buy something. I suspect it works best if you are reviewing gadgets.
 
The whole "fake news" headlines will probably have an impact on all sites. The President signed 2 bills addressing foreign propaganda. It is possible that the legislation can be adapted to include US based alternative or independent media under the new administration coming into power in 2 days.
Further it is known that Google are supposedly aggressively targeting "fake news" sites.
theguardian.com - Facebook and Google move to kick fake news sites off their ad networks | Technology | The Guardian
Going back to the President-Elect we know of his hatred of the media
https://youtu.be/V0JQj-H6-rs?t=12s
and his interest of shutting down parts of the internet
https://youtu.be/JcmiHx5Yf2I
His new cabinet are all for Net Neutrality as well, which can easily target such sites
https://youtu.be/lGBXAL8PfQ8?t=2m24s
Peggy K
 
Interesting idea +Shore Sitter but I'm not keen on the giant Agree/Disagree/Debate buttons.on the main news feed page - you can apparently click them after just reading the headline. It seems pretty link-baity and potentially fighty. Not my cup of tea.
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